Rosa canina L.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

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'Rosa canina' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2023-06-07.


Common Names

  • Common Brier
  • Dog Rose


Narrowing gradually to a point.
Sharply pointed.
Made up or consisting of two or more similar parts (e.g. a compound leaf is a leaf with several leaflets).
With an unbroken margin.
Protruding; pushed out.
A group of genera more closely related to each other than to genera in other families. Names of families are identified by the suffix ‘-aceae’ (e.g. Myrtaceae) with a few traditional exceptions (e.g. Leguminosae).
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Bearing glands.
Egg-shaped; broadest towards the stem.
Enlarged end of a flower stalk that bears floral parts; (in some Podocarpaceae) fleshy structure bearing a seed formed by fusion of lowermost seed scales and peduncle.
(sect.) Subdivision of a genus.
Single segment of the calyx. Protects the flower in bud.
(of a leaf) Unlobed or undivided.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Rosa canina' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2023-06-07.

A strong-growing shrub up to 12 ft high (sometimes much taller on the continent); stems armed with scattered prickles which are uniform, hooked, with no mixture of smaller, bristle-like ones. Leaflets usually five or seven, elliptic to broadly so or ovate, mostly 1 to 112 in. long, acute or acuminate, glabrous or almost so on both sides, sometimes glandular on the veins beneath, marginal teeth usually simple and eglandular, more rarely compound and glandular. Upper stipules broad. Flowers sweetly scented, 112 to 2 in. wide, white or pinkish, in clusters or solitary, opening around midsummer; pedicels glabrous, to about 1 in. long, they and the receptacle usually smooth, more rarely with some glandular bristles. Outermost sepals (which overlap their neighbours on both sides) pinnately lobed on both margins, the next similarly lobed on one side only (the overlapping side); the inner two, which are overlapped on both sides, have entire margins. Disk of receptacle broad. Styles glabrous or downy, not or slightly exserted from the very narrow aperture; stigmatic head usually conical, not concealing the entire surface of the disk. Fruits egg-shaped or roundish, bright red, with the sepals fallen away or remaining until the fruit changes colour.

The dog rose in one or other of its forms is spread over most of the cooler parts of Europe and S.W. Asia. It is naturalised in some parts of N. America. In the British Isles it is one of the commonest and most beautiful of wild shrubs, giving to the English country lanes one of their sweetest and most characteristic charms. For this reason the dog rose is out of place in the trim garden where so many other roses with a richer beauty compete for room. Yet in one sense the dog rose is the commonest of species in gardens, for in one form or another it provides the Canina stock on which most garden roses are budded.

The curiously diverse form of the sepals of R. canina (and of other members of the section to which it belongs) furnishes the answer to the Latin riddle,which has been translated thus:
Five brothers in one house are we,
All in one little family,
Two have beards and two have none,
And only half a beard has one.


There are two versions of this riddle. What must be the older of the two is in Latin doggerel. In the second and more elegant version the half-bearded sepal asks the riddle:
Quinque sumus fratres unus barbatus et alter
Imberbesque duo, sum semiberbis ego.

R afzeliana Fr.

R. glauca Vill. ex Loisel., not Pourr.
R. vosagiaca Desportes
R. dumalis sens . Boulenger, ? not Borkh

Similar to R. coriifolia in floral characters, but with glabrous leaflets, often glaucous above. It has much the same geographical distribution.The following species of the section Caninae is usually placed in a subsection of its own (Stylosae):

R coriifolia Fr. (1814)

R. caesia Sm. (1812)
R. canina var. coriifolia Bak.
R. dumalis var. coriifolia (Fr.) Boulenger
R. glauca var. coriifolia (Fr.) Crép

A shrub to about 6 ft high; prickles shorter than in R. canina. Leaves downy beneath, at least on the veins, usually obtuse. Flowers on very short pedicels. Receptacle with a wider stylar aperture than in R. canina and its close allies, the correspondingly rather narrow disk almost concealed by the broad, woolly stigmatic head. Sepals erect or spreading, usually persisting until the fruit ripens, or even later. This species is rare in S. England, common in Scotland and Scandinavia; it also occurs in the mountains of South and Central Europe and S.W. Asia. It was at one time considered to be a mountain race of R. ‘Froebelii’. Stems sparsely armed. Leaves greyish above. Flowers white. (R. laxa Froebel, not Retz.; R. canina var. froebelii Christ ex Rehd.; R. coriifolia var. froebelii (Christ) Rehd.)This is the well-known Laxa rose-stock, introduced from the Near East towards the end of the last century.

R corymbifera Borkh.

R. dumetorum Thuill.
R. canina var. dumetorum (Thuill.) Bak.
R. canina var. corymbifera (Borkh.) Rouy

Leaves simply serrate, downy on both sides, usually more densely so beneath, commonly rather broadly ovate or roundish. With the same distribution as R. canina, in which it is included by many authorities.

R obtusifolia Desv.

R. tomentella Leman

Prickles usually more strongly hooked than in the preceding. Leaves relatively broad, often obtuse at the apex, downy beneath at least on the veins, edged with glandular-compound teeth. Flowers commonly white. Sepals rather short. Native of Europe, including England, where it is local.The above two species are close to R. canina. Still part of the R. canina aggregate (sect. Canina subsect. Canina), but more distinct, are:

R stylosa Desv.

R. systyla Bastard

Prickles often large, with wide bases. Leaves (in the commonest British form) ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, to 2 in. long, dark and glossy above, simply toothed, more or less glabrous. Flowers white or pale pink, on rather long, usually glandular-bristly pedicels. Styles at flowering-time agglutinated into a shortly exserted glabrous column. Fruits ovoid, red, shedding the sepals when ripe.A native mainly of western Europe, including the southern part of the British Isles. Crépin considered it to be a link between the Caninae and the Synstylae.